Springing

At the beginning of the year, I shared my plan to take joy in daily life. So far that’s been going well. There was a rough patch in February where I had a few meltdowns per week, but hey, it’s February. There’s not much you can do.

Spring is here, taking its first tentative steps.

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I’ve been taking joy in the warmer weather (and in the pretty clothes I can wear in it!). The trees are just about to bud, and little flowers are popping up everywhere.

With the new season I find new determination in being healthier, too. I’ve learned and practiced ways to stay more active and to eat better. The former wasn’t always my strong point; I’m not someone who finds exercise inherently fun (sorry). But I’ve found activities I enjoy and I reason myself to stick to them, and soon the feeling of accomplishment keeps me going. I sort of have muscles now.

So this spring I encourage you to find ways to take joy, whether it’s in exercise, in weather, in food, or in other people. What are some of your favorite ways?

 

Springtime Travel

Time seems thinner in the spring.
I mean, each year is a layer
and usually the layers are too thick,
too heavy to push aside and revisit.
But in the springtime —
in the euphoria of sunshine
every past soul has seen,
of a fresh breeze
every past soul has smelt,
of tender sprouts
every past soul has touched
— the layers begin to melt a little,
run together, overlap,
and I enjoy the season in solidarity
with every other generation.
We smile and walk down dusty lanes
together in the rediscovered sunlight.

Our Coming Adventures

Over a month ago I shared that we were making tentative plans for some big adventures. Well, we’ve decided to take the leap and spend most of the summer in a new place:

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(photos all by me :) )

We’ll be visiting the great state of Arizona for 2-3 months! We plan to stay with Alex’s grandparents near Phoenix, helping them out and getting to know them better. Alex and I have been to Arizona several times together and separately, and it’s one of our favorite states. Alex wants to move there. I’m a little more skeptical.

It was a little scary to decide to run off West when we still have a house and jobs here in PA. I like structure and I was rather set on our plan to stay near school over the summer. But this was an opportunity that shot up suddenly, and we’ve noticed that when this happens it’s usually something we need to take advantage of. We won’t have very many years of utter flexibility, so we decided to enjoy where the wind takes us while we’re still light enough to be swept along.

It will be a busy summer. We have three weddings to attend in three different states, none of which are Arizona. We’ll get to see a lot of new airports. But we’re looking forward to going on those adventures together, to discovering new people and places and learning more about ourselves in the process. We are fully confident that God is leading us in a new and exciting direction, and that we can trust in His provision as we do something slightly crazy.

And anyway, it’s the closest Alex will let me get to being a gypsy.

 

The Highway

This is a short story I’ve been working on for one of my classes. I’ve been wanting to share it here – enjoy!

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They were building a highway. It would stretch from the northernmost tip of the state through the mountains and all the way to the ocean, five states away. It was progress. It was speed. It would bring produce and packages and soldiers. It was the mark of every modern society.

Unfortunately for Norris, they were building the highway right through his farm, right in between his house and barn, where the old dirt road ran through to connect one town with another. Some engineer in Washington had decided that Township Road #132 was the ideal place to link the new Interstate. Anywhere else would run into a lake or mountain range, wasting money and time.

The highway wouldn’t interfere with his farm at all, they had told Norris. It wouldn’t ruin his land or crops. They were essentially just widening the road that was already there, which did belong to the government, after all. It was part of the President’s new initiative. It was progress.

Construction began at the beginning of summer. Crews came and plotted out the new boundaries of the road. It would be a four-lane highway with low railings on either side. You’ll still have your privacy, they told Norris. One edge of the highway was to come twenty feet from his house, the other twenty feet from his barn. We’ll build a bridge so you can get across, they said. It won’t interfere with your farm at all.

So every morning Norris got into his rusty Ford pickup, clattered down the makeshift service road, across the skeletal wooden bridge stretched over the fledgling highway, and down another makeshift service road to the barn, where he fed the animals and started his work in the fields. Around midday he’d return to the other side of the highway for lunch and then work in the other fields. “It’s a damn nuisance,” he told his wife.

When the highway finally opened, it droned with business. Huge trucks carried cargo to faraway cities and little cars, like brightly colored insects, carried people. The house, barn, and garden were soon coated with a perpetual layer of dust, and there was an incessant hum that echoed off the old farmhouse no matter what the hour. Norris and his wife began not to notice it until they went out for errands or church or visited other people’s houses and felt an emptiness in their ears.

Norris remembered when a single car on the old dirt road was an occasion. He’d been young then, a short skinny boy with a blond mop head, freckles and snaggleteeth, spending his summers running wild through the woods and cornfields. Dad came in from the fields every night at six, covered in dust, with rings around his eyes like a raccoon. Norris was expected to be home by then too, if he planned on getting a dinner and avoiding a spanking. Mum had dinner on the table by six fifteen, usually meat and some kind of vegetable, with her famous bread. They’d sit in the golden light of the summer sunset, eating and drinking the light and balmy air as they ate and drank their dinner.

One evening as they were sitting down to eat, Norris looked through the open kitchen window and saw one of the cows staring back at him, right on the other side. All of the cows had gotten out of the pasture by a break in the fence, and had ambled over to the scent of dinner.

“Dammit!” Dad said, jumping up from the table. The dust shook from his overalls.

“Bill,” Mum noted before jumping up as well.

The three of them struggled into rubber boots and ran out into the yard, where the three dozen brown and white cows strolled lazily in the evening light. It took hours to corral them all into the barn. Norris whooped and jumped to get their attention while Mum and Dad chased the herd into a little knot, then drove them into the barn while Norris held the door open and welcomed the bovines in like a circus master. When he shut the door behind the last straggler, he slipped in the thick mud, and when his parents tried to help him, they slipped too. Then, weak from exhaustion and hilarity the three of them pulled together and slid their way to the house, laughing in spite of themselves. By then, dinner was cold, but they were too hungry to care.

One day at the end of a summer, when Dad was in the fields and Norris had been drafted into the service of window washing, a blue Ford Model 18 drove up the dirt road in a cloud of shining dust and parked in the yard. The car stood out crisply against the faded green cornstalks and the yellowed white house. The man it carried stood out too, in a navy pinstriped suit and matching hat. He marched up to the porch, his patent leather shoes clicking like snap peas.

“Good afternoon, Ma’am,” he said when Mum answered the door. He swept off his hat and held it to his chest like a martyr. “My name is Ellis Chaney and I work for the township. I’d like to talk to you about improvements to this road here.”

Mum brought him in and offered him a seat at the table. Norris watched through the windows, wiping away the grime with his sponge so he could see better.

“Ma’am, it has come to our attention that the roads in our fine county leave much to be desired. They are beset with dust in the summer and potholes in the winter. Ma’am, we in the township value our citizens, folks like yourself who are the lifeblood of this county and state. We are considering paving this road here. It’s high time we had some progress in this area, and it’ll certainly make travel and trade faster, a boon for everyone involved. We’d like to hear everyone’s input on the matter.”

“Well, that’s certainly an idea,” said Mum. “But I’m afraid my husband isn’t home. I’m sure he’d like to give his two cents.”

The man cocked one shiny, groomed eyebrow. “Of course ma’am. I can come back another day if that’d be better.” He rose to leave. “But if I may ask, what, Ma’am, would you say about paving the road? I’d like to have your two cents.”

Mum blushed a little. “Well, I think it’s a very nice idea. It’d be… nice to go into town and back without getting so dusty.”

The man smiled. “Of course, Ma’am. If I may say, however, you look quite fresh and lovely. Not dusty at all.”

Mum blushed more. “Oh. Thank you.”

Only after the man had gotten back into his car and sped away toward another white farmhouse did Mum notice Norris at the window. Her face grew scarlet.

“What have I told you about sneaking around?” she said. “I don’t have all day for you to wash one window! Get on to the next one!”

Dad came in from the fields at six. Mum didn’t mention the Man in the suit.

As the weeks passed the cornstalks grew brown and dry and Norris was drafted into the service of school. Every afternoon he hurried home down the dirt road, his books and lunch pail holding on for dear life, hoping to get a few rambles in before Mum called him to chores and dinner. The sun was setting sooner now, which meant Dad came in from the fields earlier, which meant Norris only had a short time to avoid any work.

One afternoon he got home to find the blue Ford Model 18 in the yard. He remembered the Man in the suit, but since the dirt road was still dirt, he had filed him away as not useful. He wondered, as he panted sweaty and dusty in the afternoon warmth, if the Man was finally bringing some good news.

Norris burst into the house, forgetting to wipe his feet on the rug. A bump and clatter was heard upstairs, and then a wild parade of footsteps brought Mum and the Man in the suit (a brown one this time) down the stairs. Norris blinked. Mum’s face turned scarlet.

“What have I told you about wiping your feet?” she scolded. “Look at this floor!”

“I’m sorry Mum,” said Norris, feeling more guilty than usual for the mess.

“Go get the mop and clean it up. I will not have you tracking mud into this house.”

With a glance at the Man, who smiled with all his perfectly white teeth, Norris went to the broom closet for the mop. When he returned, the Man and the blue car were gone. Mum was putting bread in the oven for dinner. Norris worked silently, erasing every speck of dirt in the hallway. Suddenly Mum was behind him, her hand on his shoulder.

“Dear, I’d like to talk to you.”

Norris blinked. “I’m sorry about the mud.”

“Don’t worry about that,” she smiled. “I’d like to talk to you about Ellis.”

“The Man in the suit?”

“Yes… Mr. Chaney – the Man in the suit.”

“What about him?”

“He was here to talk about the road, you understand?” She began to blush.

“Yes ma’am.”

“And your father and I have talked about the road, and we don’t agree on it. I agree with El-Mr. Chaney. We’re trying to figure out what to do with the road, and until we do, it’d be best not to mention anything to Dad. He’s tired from working so hard and shouldn’t have to worry about another little thing. You understand, don’t you?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Good boy. Go on, then. And remember: we don’t need to talk about Mr. Chaney or the road. Not until we think up a solution.”

Norris went on until the whole house was mopped. Of course Dad wouldn’t want the road to be paved; he hated progress of any kind. It made sense not to worry him with it. At least, it sounded right.

That night dinner was quiet. Dad ate hungrily, Mum bustled around making sure everyone had what they needed, and Norris could neither talk nor eat. He still felt guilty, and he couldn’t remember why.

“Dear, eat your vegetables,” Mum said. He jumped.

“I’m not very hungry, ma’am.”

Dad put his fork down. “Eat your food, son. Times are thin and we need to show thanks for our blessings.”

“Yessir.” Norris tried very hard but the food in his mouth was tasteless and sticky. It was like swallowing dust.

“What is the matter with that boy?” Dad shook his head.

“He’s just tired, is all.” Mum moved her food around, then passed the butter to no one in particular, then got up to refill everyone’s water glasses. She spilled the pitcher a little and went back to the sink.

“I’m fine, sir,” Norris said, forcing down a bite of bread. “Just tired.”

“You weren’t like this yesterday,” Dad finished off his meat with a final bite. “I hope he isn’t coming down with something,” he said to Mum. “I’ve heard reports of the flu in town. Any kids at school come down with the flu?” he said to Norris.

“No sir,” Norris gulped down his newly-filled glass of water.

“He’s fine,” said Mum, “and even if he is coming down with something, I’ll just run him up to the new doctor Ellis was telling me ab – ”

She stood still for a moment, then sat down slowly and set the pitcher in between her and Dad. Norris stared at her in horror.

“Who’s Ellis?” Dad looked up, sensing the change in the air.

“That man.”

“What man?”

“That man from the township. I mentioned him to you. He came over again today asking about the road.”

“I thought we already told him what we thought about it. His name’s Ellis?”

“Yes. Ellis Chaney. He’s from the township.”

“Well why did he come around again? I hope you told him we don’t need a paved road here.”

“Well, I didn’t want to be rude. He wanted to double check with everyone. He had some very good things to say – ”

“He must be pretty friendly if you’re on a first name basis already.”

Mum began to blush. She smiled and looked at Norris. “Dear, please go up to your room and do your homework.”

Norris sprung from the table like a squirrel from a cage. He had barely shut his door before their voices started talking faster and louder. By the time he fell asleep an hour later they were shouting.

He woke the next morning, and the house was silent and gray, like the fields after a rainstorm. His parents’ door was closed and Dad’s work boots were gone. Norris dressed and packed, then left for school, running away down the dirt road as if sunshine would be found at the end of it. All day he dreaded going back home. He didn’t feel guilty anymore, just sick.

He trudged back home down the dirt road, fearing everything that might meet him when he got there. He didn’t want to hear another shout, see another stiff smile, hear Mum say “dear” one more time.

He was still a ways off when he saw the blue Ford Model 18 parked in the yard. The engine was running and all the doors were open. Mum and the Man in the suit (a black one today) were loading it with suitcases. Norris broke into a run. Mum and the Man got into the car and shut the doors, and sped away in the opposite direction to a town Norris didn’t know. They were almost out of site by the time he got to the house.

“MUM!” he screamed. “Come back!” And he knew she must have looked back, at least for a second, and seen him crying in the road, but the car didn’t stop.

It never came back again.

In the years that followed, the house was always gray, and dinners were always quiet, and there was no more bread. Norris and Dad washed the dishes and mopped the floors and went to sleep for work and school in the morning.

And every so often Norris would dream of the blue Ford Model 18. Mum was driving it, and she would, unlike most people, be able to find the dirt road and the yellowed white farmhouse on it, and she would drive herself up to the house and let herself in. Norris would smell her perfume and fresh-baked bread and come bolting down the stairs, and she’d wrap him up in the kind of hug she used to give him when he was little. Dad would come in from the fields, covered in dust with rings around his eyes like a raccoon, and she’d kiss him, and the three of them would sit at the table to a dinner of meat and vegetables and bread in the golden light of the sunset.

But now none of that would ever happen, because now there was a highway.

Bedtime

I woke in a stupor. I’d been trying to stay awake.
There he was, dressing in the light of a single lamp,
long tee shirt and pajama pants.

“I need – ” I began. My brain was warm wax. “I need –
” – my Spanish, no –
” – my clothes, no –
“my – tea tree…”

I stopped. He laughed at me. I laughed too.
I’d been trying to say “phone”.
The word was in my head,
but every time I tried to say it
another took its place.

He got in and we settled under the blankets.
“Phone,” I said.
We kissed
and fell asleep.

Adventures

I’ve always liked traveling. When I was young my family drove all over the South and Midwest, staying with family and visiting historical sites along the way (we were homeschooled so we had to make it educational). We visited Chicago, the Outer Banks in North Carolina, Nashville, and Orlando. I fell in love with St. Augustine (the city, not the man).

We’d always travel down South in the winter, halfway into February when we were most sick of snow. The balmy temperatures and the fresh, floral scent in the air meant a kind of freedom. We weren’t stuck in snow drifts. We were on an adventure.

Somewhere along the way I lost a little of my love for adventure. It’s been replaced by an annoyingly grown-up need for security and planning. Sometimes I wish I could drop everything and be a gypsy, but then I remember I have a job and a house and an education (and anyway, my husband says no).

But it looks like there will be a return of adventure for us in the months ahead. Opportunities have come our way and although it’s a little terrifying to take them, we realize that we must. Everything that needs to work out will.

So stay tuned for our adventures, and go on a few of your own while you’re at it. :)

I Made Something! And Other Matters

Every week I used to have a “Crafterday” post here (think clever pun between “craft” and “Saturday”), which I haven’t done for a while. I guess I found different things to talk about. That, and I got too busy on Saturdays.

But if those posts were your cup of tea, you’re in for a few! (Cups of tea.)

Ever since we moved I’ve been obsessed with homemade banners to decorate the house: they’re cheap, they’re easy, and they’re whimsical, all winners for a poor college student!

(I apologize in advance for the crappy photos. I lost my light and the camera was put out about it.)

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I’ve made a few tiny triangle banners like this, using paint sample cards from Walmart. This is my Valentine’s palette, but I also have a winter one, a Christmas one, and a longer strand of blue and gray for our bedroom. I’m a tiny bit obsessed.

So imagine my joy when one of my favorite bloggers featured a No-Sew Heart Garland for Valentine’s Day!  Disney over at Ruffles and Stuff has the best ideas. (And the cutest kids, btw.)

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This was my version. I didn’t have the felt the tutorial calls for, and I wish I had – these scraps of Minnie Mouse-esque silk were hard to work with. :) I simplified the design with only three hearts; they pack a punch!

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Disney’s tutorial also inspired me to make another garland using my leftover crocheted hearts from last year. I love how it turned out!

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I also copied this with some plain fabric cutouts for my sewing corner:

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Gosh, I need help! We’re drowning in beautiful heart garlands!

In all seriousness though, I have been wanting to share Ruffles and Stuff on this site for a while (so thank you, garlands). I’ve followed Disney’s blog for several years now, and it’s been a constant source of encouragement to me. This is not only for the clever DIYs, but also for her honest and joyful approach to life, even when life gets really really bad. She has helped me to see that life is a very beautiful thing, and that one of the truest ways we can worship God is to live in gratitude, because He’s created every beautiful, ridiculous facet of life as a gift to us.

These ideas played a part in my resolution to “Take Joy” this year. Last year was difficult on many levels, and I learned a lot about myself and the people around me – lots of good things and lots of bad things, which are still good to know. As someone prone to anxiety more than I realized, learning to take joy in the little gifts of life is literally a life saver.

So go visit Ruffles and Stuff; you’ll be glad you did! Every day there’s something a little different to enjoy, and and Disney really is the sweetest ray of sunshine. :)

Have a great week folks! (Sorry about all the hearts!)

Thoughts for the Creative Juices

“Here, these ought to get your creative juices flowing.” my aunt presented me with a box of vibrant purple glass beads. I was twelve, and in the middle of a jewelry-making phase. Heck yeah it got the creative juices flowing. For the next few years I made necklaces, bracelets, and key chains with those heavy purple glass beads. I paired them with leather cord, silver charms and glass seed beads. It was grand.

The jewelry making craze has passed me by, but the phrase “creative juices” still comes to mind every now and then. Now they pertain more to writing for me. I’ll have bursts of creativity where my cup of juice runneth over and I crank out writing like crazy (today was one of those days). Other times, however, the cup is dry and it’s a struggle just to put a post on this blog.

So, in an attempt to get creative juices flowing, for me and for you, I had some questions and I’d love some feedback. Whether you’re a writer, a painter, a seamstress or any other kind of artist, I hope these thoughts help to spur you on to more creativity and love for what you do! Let me know your thoughts in the comments. We’ll have a bit of a party! :o)

What subject or item do you most love to write about/paint/create?

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Is there a particular theme that always pops up in your writing? Does some kind of symbol always show up in your art? Do you really like to sew the same thing over and over? For me as a writer, I love writing about nature, at least in poetry. To me there’s something about every day that’s beautiful. Nature has so many facets, so many hidden pockets just waiting to be discovered. Even the most dreary, soggy days can be so beautiful. I call them “poetic days” because of their potential. :o)

What emotions/situations cause the desire to create?

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When you feel lonely, do you head for the knitting needles? Does elation make you want to write until kingdom come? Does anger fuel inspiration at your piano? I can get in these really thoughtful moods where I contemplate and question everything (usually on poetic days). These times are best for burrowing deep into my thoughts, usually with a good cup of coffee or tea, and writing what I find. It’s like mining. Other days, though, I skip around clicking my heels and can’t wipe the silly grin off my face. My writing grows whimsical and sweet. Gosh, I’m a very emotional writer, aren’t I? How very womanly of me.

What do you want to use your art for?

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You devote yourself to your art, whatever it is, for hours a day. You gain knowledge and make mistakes. You soar and you plummet. The question is, what do you do it all for?

A lot of people see art in its various forms as a way to express oneself. Some people see this as the only reason for art at all. That reason has never sat well with me. Yes, creative people have to express their inspiration, but just regurgitating your inner creativity for the heck of it doesn’t feel like a good enough reason for me. To me, art is a way to take and interpret the world around us, and to cause others to think about it in a different way. It should build up and encourage the artist and audience, not destruct or discourage. It should bring something new and good to the world. That’s how I want my writing to operate. What do you think? Why do you create what you create?

So, let me know your thoughts! I’d love to get a discussion going on creativity, writing, and art in general. This isn’t usually the kind of post I write, but I don’t hear enough from you folks out there. :) I’m excited to learn more about your art, whatever it may be (and trust me, it can be anything). Hopefully this discussion will inspire you and get your creative juices flowing!

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Wedding Planning, Book Writing

Happy weekend! I realize that I seem to treat every day like a holiday. “Happy Tuesday!” I say. “Happy last day of February!” I’m sorry if that gets annoying.

Really, I do it for two reasons. The first is that I honestly can’t come up with a better greeting. The second reason, however, is there really is something to celebrate about every day. Each cycle of sunrise and sunset is a miracle and gift in itself, and I think that treating each day like a tiny holiday can brighten up you and the people around you. We spend far too much time being cold, serious, and professional. Rebel!

That being said, Happy Weekend! (heh). How are you doing? How’s life? What’s the weather like? Let’s have some Saturday coffee talk.

I am on Spring Break, praise the Lord (and I really do praise Him for that), and today I am going with my very suave fiance to do some wedding planning! It promises to be a hectic and splendid day. The weather leaves much to be desired, but the good news is it won’t last forever.

“[Walt’s] voice was gravelly and gruff, the result of an irreverent personality and too many cigarettes.”

We will be getting our drafts back for the Bestiary soon – I am so glad to get the feedback! I am super excited for this project. At first it was a little overwhelming – publishing a book and planning a wedding in one semester felt like way too much of a good thing. But I am growing more and more encouraged. It’s so fun to collaborate with fellow writers and students, helping eachother do what we love. There’s nothing like it in the world. You can laugh at your mistakes, be praised for your accomplishments, and be encouraged to do better. It’s grand.

And we only have a little over a month until the publishing date! It sounds crazy, but I know we can do it. I’ll keep you all updated on the ins and outs. Stay tuned!

Got any afternoon plans? How’s your writing going (if that’s what you do)? What are your thoughts on the Bestiary?

Curiosities: Knitted Bird

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Poor thing.

He was a prototype

made with leftover yarn

from a new pattern

by a knitter who hadn’t used four needles in months.

He’s got holes, poor thing,

where his innards (fluffy and white they may be)

come out in little tufts.

The needles were a size too big.

No sound comes from his perfectly pointed beak,

and his feathers are not nearly as cheerful

as the bright red birds made for Christmas.

He sits and gathers dust, poor thing,

but he’s great for a quick squeeze

– a hug, if you need one.

He matches the birds on the wall,

so he’s pretty content,

poor thing.

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